There are only 10 days left of the MLB season 2021, and the NL East race is alive and well. On Thursday, the Braves blew a late lead against the Diamondbacks (ARI 6, ATL 4), while the Phillies gathered for a big win from behind against the Pirates (PHI 12, PIT 6). Philadelphia picked up one game in the standings and is two games behind Atlanta in the division.
Here are the updated NL East positions:
Phillies: 79-74 (2.0 GB)
Mets: 73-79 (7.5 GB)
Marlins: 64-88 (16.5 GB)
Citizens: 64-89 (17.0 GB)
Truth be told, neither the Braves nor the Phillies have impressed lately. Atlanta is 10-10 in September, while the Phillies are only 11-10. This is not an NL West-esque match where the Dodgers and Giants push each other hard and apparently win every day. NL East are two teams that are apparently trying to give the division away, but the other is not taking it.
Here’s what you need to know about Thursday’s NL East action.
Atlanta’s blasted lead
The D-Backs are extremely poor, and the Braves treated them appropriately in the first three games of their three-game series. They won all three games and scored Arizona 26-7. The Braves took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning on Thursday and looked to be on track for another easy win, but things were quickly clarified.
Staff ace Charlie Morton allowed back-to-back singles to begin the seventh, after which reliever Jacob Webb handed over a game-tie-three-run home run to Carson Kelly. Outfielder Daulton Varsho, who got the D-Backs on the board with a fifth inning single, doubled a run later in the seventh to give Arizona the lead.
After the D-Backs took the lead, the last six Braves struck outs. Arizona is on track to lose 110 games this season, but Atlanta beat them only four times in seven attempts. Lack of bank wins against a poor D-Backs team is one of the reasons the Braves do not have a major division in the lead with less than two weeks left of the season.
Philadelphia’s huge comeback
Things did not start well for Phillies and former ace Aaron Nola on Thursday. Not at all. Nola gave up five runs at the top of the second inning, including a three-run home run for rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes. Colin Moran hit a solo home run in third to give last-place Pirates a 6-0 lead. Calling it a disappointing start after the Braves loss earlier in the day would be an understatement.
The comeback started at the bottom of the third. The Phillies sent nine men to the plate and scored five runs, making the 6-0 deficit a 6-5 deficit with six innings to play. Andrew McCutchen doubled in a race and Brad Miller snuck a single through the infield as part of that event. In the sixth, Philadelphia took the lead on a Ronald Torreyes three-run home run.
Torreyes went into Thursday’s match with 10 home runs on nearly 1,000 career records. Power is not his game, not at all, but it may just be the biggest hit of the Phillies season. JT Realmuto socked a two-run home run later in the match to give Philadelphia some assurances. They scored 12 unanswered runs after trailing 6-0.
Large series in print next week
For the Phillies, Thursday night was the first game in a four-game series with the Pirates. The Braves, meanwhile, have finished with the D-Backs and are now heading to San Diego for three games against a Padres team that is crashing hard. That said, a team with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado is not dismissed. The Braves can not afford to watch their NL East lead shrink any more.
The Phillies and Braves both have a day off on Monday, so they play three games at Truist Park next week. There’s no scenario where the Braves can win the division title this weekend, so the Phillies will go into that series next week mathematically alive in the NL East. Ideally, they would pick up at least one game this weekend, otherwise they would go into next week’s series that would have to have a sweep to pass Atlanta. The Braves are 9-7 against the Phillies this season, including 4-2 at home at Truist Park.